Saturday 5 November 2016

Authors in Schools

Let’s say you want to get into the schools and have a captive audience for your brilliant work of literature. How do you do it? 

1.) If you aren’t vivacious, quick on your feet, and a strong public speaker, it’s probably not a good idea to get into classrooms. Kids expect to be entertained as much as informed (usually entertained more). You need to bring your best attitude to work with kids—they deserve no less. Connect kids with what you know, what you’ve written, what they’re learning, and what they care about and be enthusiastic about all of it and you should be well received.

2.) Know who you’re contacting. Don’t do the ‘To Whom It May Concern’ thing because you can bet it won’t be of any concern to anyone then. Do some basic research. If you’re aiming to speak to the classes of a certain subject or grade level, know who to send your pitch to. Usually the best person to contact (in primary school) is the teacher-librarian; in high school, try the head of English department.

3.) Offer to tailor your presentation to the class’s needs, but also provide the teacher or staff member you’re pitching to with some examples of presentations you can do. Keep it simple for them.

4.) Make sure your materials (emails, pamphlets, flyers, whatever) are professional looking and free of typos. They are frequently your first impression, so make it a good one.
5.) As above, if you plan to give a power point presentation, make it as visually attractive as possible.
6.) What you charge is up to you. At the moment most school’s presenters charge either Australian Society of Authors’ rates, or on average $3.50 per student per hour for performance/talk, with a minimum number of students. I charge $3 per student with a minimum of 90 students. For writing workshops I charge $5 per student for an hour with a maximum of 30 students.
7.) Be clear about what you will and won’t do. For example, I only give writing workshops for students from Year 3 and up.
8.) Arrive at least 30 minutes at the school before your first presentation. This gives you time to meet your school organiser, sign in at the front office and to set up. If there are technical hitches, say with your computer/power point presentation you won’t have children arriving in the middle of the crisis.
9.) Some schools are kind enough to allow you to sell your books. What I do if given permission to sell is send copies of the books to the teacher-librarian. If it’s okay with the TL, I also send flyers with book covers, blurbs and prices to her, asking her to please give to the students. Some TLs are kind enough to save you the time and expense; they will put a notice on your behalf in the school newsletter. The best time to sell books is immediately after school when parents come to pick up their children.

Did you get the gig? Awesome! Touch base with the school and the teacher who is hosting you about a week before you go. If there are things they need to provide (ideally, all they need to provide is the space you’re presenting in), gently remind them of that. Ask if there’s anything specific they want you to reinforce. Check over the schedule and general expectations. Know where you need to check-in (closest cross-street and parking availability).

9.) Support what the teachers are teaching with your presentation. Make their lives easier and they’ll be more likely to bring you back and/or recommend you to other schools.
© Dianne Bates
Do you have a specific query about presenting in schools? If so, send it to and there will be a reply in the next issue of Buzz Words (http://www/ Buzz Words is an online magazine for those in the children’s book industry which Di founded in 2006.

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